It's Novak Djokovic vs. Dominic Thiem for the Australian Open title
When will the younger generation of players break through? When will the proverbial touch be passed? Those are questions often wondered when it comes to the ATP Tour.
As it stands now, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer have not gone anywhere. Even though Djokovic and Nadal split last year’s four Grand Slam titles at two apiece, there were some signs of chinks in the armor–mainly with Federer, although he at least managed to finish runner-up at Wimbledon (to Djokovic, after squandering two match points). Daniil Medvedev pushed Nadal to five sets in the U.S. Open final and Stefanos Tsitsipas won the year-end championship in London. Tsitsipas triumphed in a title match that was devoid of all Big 3 members. The Greek’s opponent was Dominic Thiem.
Speaking of Thiem, that’s who gets the next shot at pulling the next generation over the hump. The 26-year-old will go up against Djokovic in Sunday’s Australian Open final (check out our free expert tennis picks) after Djokovic took care of Federer on Thursday and Thiem battled past Alexander Zverev on Friday. That second semifinal lasted three hours and 42 minutes until Thiem crucially avoided a fifth set by prevailing 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(4). The Austrian had previously outlasted Nadal 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6) in a quarterfinal thriller that lasted four hours and 10 minutes.
“Credit to him,” Zverev said of Thiem following Friday’s nightcap. “He’s playing unbelievable tennis right now.”
Thiem has been playing unbelievable tennis for about 12 months now. Last season he captured the biggest title of his career in Indian Wells and finished runner-up to Nadal at the French Open for a second straight time.
Thiem vs. Djokovic head-to-head
Thiem’s two signature wins in 2019 came over Federer in the Indian Wells championship match and at Djokovic’s expense in the French Open semis. The latter showdown saw the current No. 5 player in world survive a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 war that spanned two days. Overall, Djokovic leads the head-to-head series 6-4–including 3-1 on hard courts. Their most recent hard-court encounter resulted in one of 2019’s best matches, with Thiem pulling off a 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(5) upset during round-robin action at the year-end champion on the indoor hard courts of London.
Australia, however, is Djokovic’s favorite setting. The world No. 2 (who will regain the top spot from Nadal with a win on Sunday) owns a record seven Australian Open titles and he is a perfect 7-0 in finals. Djokovic–playing inspired tennis following Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing–has not lost a single set since donating one to Jan-Lennard Struff back in the first round.
It’s true that Thiem is knocking on the door. It’s going to take the performance of his life to knock it down.